Crickey – A Colonial Legacy

‘Many Continentals think life is a game; the English think cricket is a game’

George mikes

When the English colonialism swept the Asian and African countries, it had multiple implications. The English carried with them their culture, ethos and lifestyle along with ambition to establish their hegemony in these continents. Besides battered faces, deft protests, innumerable lathi charges and spite, colonialism begot the Exchange of culinary expertise, architectural finesse and most of all the game of cricket. The first game of cricket was played in England in the 1300s.

The story of Cricket in India which begins with the first mention of a cricket match played by British sailors in Cambay in 1721 ˜ is a story of its gradual indigenisation. Lord Harris,

The Governor of Bombay, fathered Indian cricket. He granted land to native cricket clubs. With the expansion of British rule throughout the subcontinent the British took the game with them wherever they went. However, the early history of the game was focused largely on the large cities, particularly Bombay. The presidency matches began in 1892-93 between Parsis and Europeans and the tournament became the Bombay Triangular, with the Hindus fielding a team in 1907-08. In 1912-13, the tournament became quadrangular with the entry of Muslims in the field. With the efforts of several Princes, H E Grant-Gloven and A S de Mellow, the national championship, the Ranji Trophy began in 1935.India played its first official Test against England in 1932.

By the 19th century there were many native cricket clubs in India. Thus started the story of a game that would go on to become the opium of masses of India.

The face of Indian cricket that we see today has undergone great deal of change from matches being played in uncultured open „miadans‰ to the present day finely rolled out fields, from use of broad hefty bats to highly specialized willows, from Ranjit Singh‚s days to the times of Sehwag. This colonial legacy continues to grip a nation divided on many fronts.

In 1935, the Ranji Trophy began, with each state fielding a team. The trophy was a deliberate attempt to avoid the communalism of the quadrangular tournament. Ranji format of games survives till date and is very essential to the structure of game in India along with the Irani trophy, Duleep trophy and Deodhar trophy. The Ranji Trophy is composed of teams representing the states that make up India. As the political states have multiplied, so have cricket teams, but not every state has a team. Some states have more than one cricket team, e.g. Maharashtra and Gujarat. There are also ‘odd’ teams like Railways, and Services representing the armed forces.

The Irani Trophy tournament was conceived during the 1959-60 season to mark the completion of 25 years of the Ranji Trophy championship and was named after the late Z.R. Irani, who was associated with the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) from its inception in 1928, till his death in 1970 and a keen patron of the game. The Duleep Trophy competition was started by the Board of Control for Cricket in India in 1961-62 with the aim of providing a greater competitive edge in domestic cricket – because, apart from the knock-out stages of the Ranji Trophy, that competition proved predictable, with Bombay winning for fifteen consecutive years. The Duleep was also meant to help the selectors in assessing form.

Though India won it‚s 1st major cup in 1983 when it won the Prudential World cup beating West Indies by 43 runs at Lord’s under the captaincy of Kapil Dev. The fondness for the game might have stemmed from the fact that it was a game played by English colonizer, who always asserted that the aim of colonization was to tame uncivilized people. Cricket must have been seen as the game of civilized whites and the mighty „babus‰. Its development has been closely tied up with the history of the country, mirroring many of the political and cultural developments around issues such as race, caste, religion and nationality. This love affair with the game continues till date and probably with greater passion.

That‚s a wrap on the game so adored and revered in a country of diverse people, a game that evokes sense of unity, oneness and patriotism, a game with 75 yrs of strong history and still going strong!

Hail cricket.

Neha Vermani

Gurgaon, India